Animals Doing a
World of Good
Two years of research and development into the emotional impact factors influencing care and healing resulted into the development of our Sacred Paws program of animal assisted therapy.
Intuitive Care Delivered
Using the intuitive nature of trained therapy dogs gives our team a healthy way to provide, comfort, support and distraction to children during procedures and hospitalization. Sprout, our first Sacred Paws facility dog, is a full-time “employee” at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart and a registered service dog that works with a handler in the hospital on a daily basis (Monday – Friday).
Sprout visits patients primarily in the pediatric infusion center and the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic, where treatments and medication can last as much as 8 hours.
Sprout’s Impact: A Story
One recent teenage patient is a great example of Sprout’s unmeasurable effect. This patient frequently visited the pediatric infusion center to receive chemotherapy to treat his brain cancer. The sheer volume of his chemotherapy meant he was spending around 6-7 hours a day here – 30-35 hours a week. While he was polite, after a time he simply wanted to be left alone, feeling out of control of his own body and defeated by his cancer and lengthy treatment days. He began to close the blinds in his room, turned out the lights, the tv – even covered his head with a blanket to sleep. Right around this time Sprout began her work.
During this patient’s first interaction with Sprout, he was polite and seemed happy to visit with the dog but the interaction was short-lived. Sprout would even roll over on her back as if she was demanding the teenager give her one last belly rub while looking at him with her best pleading “puppy eyes“. The dog’s antics made the teen laugh every single time which in turn made the teen continue to pet Sprout and talk with the handler.
After a week the handler and Sprout, spent an hour at a time in his room. The staff noticed that the patient’s room lights remained on, the blinds open. During his treatments he would lay on the floor and pet Sprout and opening up to the handler about his fears, hopes, dreams, social life and health.
His mother said, “You have no idea. I cannot tell you the last time I saw him laugh, truly laugh, like he does with Sprout. He puts on a really good show for you all but he’s had the toughest time with this. But Sprout, this beautiful dog, she has brought my boy back to me.”. Facility dogs result in emotional care; a creative way to reach out to children and to connect with them during their most difficult moments.